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"Passing a law commanding Amtrak to stop losing money is like shaking a baby to make it stop wetting its diaper," writes Chicago attorney and Amtrak Reform Council member James Coston in "Railgram" (January). "The failure of the airline industry to earn a profit over its 75-year lifetime should tell us something about the futility of expecting Amtrak to make a profit, particularly over a five-year timeline as specified by Congress in 1997, for the airlines have been the beneficiaries of one of the largest taxpayer subsidy programs in the history of American socialism....In 1992, Professor Stephen Paul Dempsey of the University of Denver estimated that the current replacement value of the U.S. commercial airport system--virtually all of it developed with federal grants and tax-free municipal bonds--at $1 trillion."

Where the kids live. According to Voices for Illinois Children's statistical overview Illinois Kids Count 2002, 47 percent of Chicago children live with both of their own parents; 27 percent live with their single mother; 5 percent with their single father; 13 percent with a grandparent; 5 percent with other relatives; and 3 percent "other."

From another city's file: the ongoing decline and fall of the Smithsonian. At the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, the insect zoo has been renamed Orkin Hall (Washington Post, January 27).

Let's make a swamp downtown. John Heinz, Barrington's director of public works, describes the large grassy swale and wetland now absorbing excess storm water from Flint Creek and preventing basement flooding (the Metropolitan Planning Council's "Regional Connection," Winter): "A structure is strongest the day you install it, and weakens over time. Vegetation is weakest the day you plant it, and becomes stronger over time."

"If it's been a rough year for the stock market overall, it's been a relatively good year for many social investing folks," writes Marjorie Kelly in Business Ethics (January/February). One winner of the magazine's fourth annual social investing awards was Chicago-based Ariel Appreciation fund, which gained 9 percent during 2001, while the benchmark for its class was down 19 percent. "Socially what stands out about Ariel is its firmwide commitment to the education of inner-city youth. The company last year gave an impressive 10.8 percent of pre-tax profits to charity. This included college funding for kids formerly from Shakespeare Elementary School, where Ariel adopted a sixth grade class in 1991 and committed to getting those kids through college."

Contrary to federal recommendations, the City of Chicago's emergency plan is a closely guarded secret, reports Leah Samuel in the Chicago Reporter (February). "In its 279-page 'State and Local Guide for All-Hazard Emergency Operations Planning,' updated in September 1996, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that a wide range of community groups--such as local media, social service agencies, churches and labor unions--help local officials create their emergency response plans. But the City of Chicago designed its own plan and kept it close to the vest. 'We don't want anyone to see it,' said Larry Langford, public information officer for the Office of Emergency Communications." Samuel tried to contact Fire Commissioner James T. Joyce and Frank Moriarty, chief of the department's Local Emergency Planning Committee. "'There is no reason they would talk to the press....They are behind the scenes, functioning so that they can do their jobs,' said Molly Sullivan, director of public affairs for the Fire Department. Sullivan also declined to discuss the plan."

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